Charity Profile Series – Claire Carruthers, Wellington Free Ambulance

In the latest edition of our Charity Profile series, we talked to the inspiring Claire Carruthers. She is the Executive Director of Fundraising and Communications at Wellington Free Ambulance, a charity with not only a rich history but also the only free emergency ambulance service in the country. A master communicator and storyteller, she shares what energizes her about the industry and the exciting initiatives Wellington Free Ambulance have coming up next year.

I began my role as Executive Director of Fundraising and Communication at Wellington Free Ambulance in January this year and it is an absolute privilege to lead the future success of fundraising for such an iconic organisation. 

I am passionate about fundraising and telling the story of the power of philanthropy. Forming lifelong relationships and partnerships are essential to any organisation but turning these relationships into continued philanthropy to support the mission is where I get really excited about my role. I see my main role as a connector and communicator of the amazing stories at Wellington Free ambulance. Connecting people with the cause and ensuring the impact of their, gift, donation, time, commitment, volunteering and advocacy is realised is my priority. 

To lead the future success of fundraising at Wellington Free I know we must always remember and connect back to how it all began. The Wellington Free story begins with a cloak, in a very literal sense. 94 years ago, the then-mayor of Wellington, Sir Charles Norwood, stopped his car when he saw an injured man collapsed on the street. He asked the passers-by if anyone had called an ambulance, and the response was that none could be found. So, Sir Charles Norwood did what he saw mattered the most. He gave his coat as a blanket and stayed with the injured man until an ambulance arrived.  This is the origin of te kahu o te manaaki - the cloak of care.

This single act of compassion sparked an idea. Seeing the need for a more responsive, more timely and more compassionate service, Sir Charles started Wellington Free Ambulance with a commitment that emergencies in the community need not cost people their lives, or their money. His vision was to create a clear, accessible path for professionals to help patients - whakawātea te ara.  I share his belief and I am inspired by how the whole team here at Wellington Free also do.

The definition of philanthropy is 'goodwill to fellow members of the human race especially an active effort to promote human welfare'. There is no greater goodwill or gift than one that enables a team to continue to provide lifesaving care for free almost a century later. An equitable society and equal access to healthcare for all is not a nice to have but essential and philanthropy is the essential tool to help create a fair society without prejudice or discrimination.

I am energised by leading and bringing teams together to foster empathetic engagement and I'm a strong believer in 'team work makes the dream work!' Wellington Free Ambulance has 4 key organisational values which are 'keep getting better together, lead by example, be authentic, original and true and act with Kindness'. Again the founding value that started Wellington Free, acting with compassion and kindness is still part of our Kaupapa today. All four of these values resonate with my personal beliefs and moral compass, in particular' be authentic'. I don't think you can be a good leader, or act with kindness and compassion or be part of bringing people together without being authentic which to me means being honest, true, fair and to listen first.

This year I have been asked multiple times if we need to fundraise differently. We do not need to fundraise differently (apart from having a fail-proof contingency plan for events) but we must remember to continue and not stop fundraising because of COVID-19. We must also communicate more to all our supporters in a very open and transparent manner, remembering a strong philanthropic partnership is based on trust and accountability.  Successful fundraising relies on the fundraising and communications strategy being integral to the organisation's priorities. One of the best strategies for long term fundraising success is to foster a culture of philanthropy internally and externally to encourage and promote advocacy for the organisation (culture eats strategy for breakfast!). If everyone is a cheerleader for the mission, you have done so much more than just smash your annual fundraising target. 

Wellington Free has many exciting initiatives planned for 2022, starting with our first Direct Mail of the year, focusing on the incredible almost superhuman work our Rescue Team does. They are the team that can rescue you when you are in a remote and inaccessible area. We have rescued people from the ocean to mountain peaks to riverbeds and gullies. Wellington Free has 2 specialist 4WD vehicles and a highly trained rescue team equipped with lighter equipment to get to you fast, safely and sometimes on foot or abseiling down a mountain. Our other exciting plans are to celebrate 95 years of being the only free ambulance service in New Zealand. Our demand to serve our communities at their most vulnerable time is increasing every year and with every donation this ensures we can continue to deliver our amazing service for free for another 95 years. 

Inspiring stuff, right? While we’ve got you, did you know you can make your donations to Wellington Free Ambulance go even further by signing up to Supergenerous and choosing to regift your donation rebate? It’s an awesome way to extend your generosity and help them continue their awesome mahi. They are also a partner of ours.

You can also claim and regift your donation rebates for any donation you have made over the past four years to a registered charitable organisation in New Zealand. Every bit counts!

Sign up now

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